Edmund Burke was born in Dublin on 12th January 1729 to a Protestant father, Richard and Catholic mother, Mary Nagle who was County Cork. Richard was a prosperous solicitor and he sent young Edmund to be educated in a Quaker school in Ballitore, County Kildare. Later, in 1744 he entered Trinity College and in 1747 established a debating society called the Edmund Burke Club. The society merged with the Historical Club in 1770 to form the College Historical Society which is the second oldest student society in the world.
He went to London 1750 to study law, and against the wishes of his father, soon gave up and decided to earn his living by writing. His first published work, A Vindication of Natural Society: A View of the Miseries and Evils Arising to Mankind (1756), attacked social philosophy, especially that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the great Swiss philosopher.
By the late 1750s he counted Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, David Garrick and Sir Joshua Reynolds among his circle of friends in London.
After a return to Dublin, where he acted as private secretary to William Hamilton, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, he entered parliament in 1765. Over the following years he established himself as one of the greatest orators ever to speak in the House and his speeches have been studied ever since. He spoke out against Britain’s actions in America and thought war was the wrong path to follow. Subsequently, he attacked the French Revolution, for which he was criticised. However, many of his desperate warnings were borne out with the execution of Louis XVI and the rise of the despotic Napoleon.
A few of his many famous quotes:
- Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting
- Never apologise for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologise for the truth
- You can never plan the future by the past
He died in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire on the 9th July 1797 and is buried in the local churchyard with his infant son Richard, whose loss affected him deeply.